RECALL MADNESS….For the first time in the recall election, a federal judge has held up election preparations. Monterey County is one of four counties in California that are required to get “pre-clearance” for changes in voting procedures because of problems in previous elections, but the Justice Department has not yet approved their voting plan, which includes a reduction in the number of polling places from 190 to 86. Because of this, a judge on Friday ordered Monterey Country not to send absentee ballots to people living overseas.

However, the judge also said he was very reluctant to interfere with the election and it’s likely that the Justice Department will issue clearance shortly, so my guess is that this is not likely to turn into a permanent holdup.

A more likely source of problems for the recall is next week’s case in Los Angeles, in which the ACLU is challenging the use of punchcard ballots. It begins on Monday.

In other news, a California Field Poll found 25% of registered voters favoring Cruz Bustamante followed by 22% for Arnold Schwarzenegger. None of this means much before all the advertising has started, but it’s still a significant gain for Bustamante, who was only polling about 15% support last week.

Finally, there was a minor dustup when Warren Buffett was quoted as suggesting that California ought to raise its property taxes. He’s right, of course, especially for corporate property taxes that are scandalously low due to a loophole in Proposition 13, but one wonders why he would say something so dumb anyway. Property taxes can only be raised via initiative, which is obviously not going to happen in a state where Prop 13 is more popular than the Bill of Rights, so what’s the point of suggesting it?

On the other hand, it did give aid and comfort to Bill Simon and Tom McClintock and the rest of the ultra-conservatives who have basically destroyed the Republican party in California over the past decade. It’s a very peculiar misstep from a smart man.

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